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Vol. 13 - October 2000 - English Edition The Magazine from Skydive World


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My cure for AFF Blues
by Darrell Whitchurch -

A few months ago I went to Carolina Sky Sports, in Louisburg, NC, to watch my son jump. He had just purchased his first container and an Icarus canopy. I had no intention of jumping out of any plane. After sitting on the porch for a couple of hours things began to change. It started to seem like a rational idea. And I ended up taking my first tandem jump.
My tandem master was a great guy named James, and I had a ball! We went out of the back of a Casa. When I/we landed I swear I had not felt that good in years. For the next several weeks every night I dreamt about flying. After a little searching I found a closer DZ and went out and signed up. Two weekends --- two more tandems --- and they let me pull and steer the chute. WOW! I am going to learn to fly!
Well, things kind of slowed down. My local DZ only flies on weekends and has one instructor. It started to rain every weekend. And I hated the 30-minute ride to altitude in a Cessna with someone sitting on my foot or leg. I'm sure that postage-sized landing area is sufficient for anyone but it sure looked small after my visit to CSS. Two months later I am still trying to get past Level 4 AFF.
Anyway, last Tuesday I phoned Carolina Sky Sports and asked if I could come back and become a student there. They were so good to me over the phone and said "come on back, we'll be glad to have you" Wednesday I drove 350 miles and got there in time for the sundown load. Hey, they do a picnic on Wednesday evenings. Georgie did some killer chili and burgers, very friendly and relaxing. I was surprised that they remembered me. It was like being home again.
I will never forget the feeling of success when I looked out on a circle of awareness and saw my instructor smiling back at me. Yes sir, I can do this. I can fly. By Saturday I had completed Level 8.
I'll be back to do my leg turns again, too stiff and I did them so fast I tumbled each time, but it was easy to get stable again - I now had confidence, and it was fun! If the weather hadn't tanked Sunday I might have gotten a few more jumps in.
I got to jump from three different planes in the four days I was there--a FrankenOtter, a blue and white Super Otter and the CrossKeys Casa. No problem getting out of a Super Otter or a Casa, 14K in 15 minutes. Big doors so you can think about what you are trying to learn, big pea target circle in a 50-acre landing area and the radio in my helmet was a great security blanket. If you ever get the chance, go see and jump the famous "FrankenOtter."
It was a bit of a shock when I looked out on the runway and saw this weird bird. It's made up of parts and pieces from 7 or 8 different Otters. None of the doors match the wings, tail and body all came from different planes. It really does look like Frankensteinís version of a Plane, complete with stitches. But rest assured it runs like a dream. Safety first is a more then a slogan. Paul and Nancy run a smooth, clean, fun operation and the gear shop and instructors are all there just for you.
Morten and Ulla made it fun again and I can't say enough about the rest of the staff. I flew two lessons with Allen Davis. Later I was looking at a Golden Knights photo on the wall and said "shit - that's my instructor." He was so patient with this gray-haired old fart who wanted to learn. If I was willing to learn, they were more than willing to teach. Randy redid ground school for me and this time it made a lot more sense. And the lessons did not end when the debriefs were over. I could go up to an instructor any time and ask them anything. No matter how dumb the question may have been, I was given a straight level answer. And then they asked questions to make sure I had understood the answer.
It was kind of neat to have some of the people I've seen and read about in Parachutist Mag come over and say "good landing" and seem honestly concerned and happy about my progress. Just like a real family.
Anyway what I'm trying to say is this. IF you get the AFF blues and don't seem to be making the progress you want. Pick up the phone and jump in the car. It's even cheaper midweek. They've got a camping area. Great facilities and equipment. Great people and most important--they made it fun to be a student. Thanks for listening to me ramble and, by the way, my son logged jump No. 100 in a 15-way at CSS this weekend. I had to stay on the ground. They didn't seem to think I was ready. I am looking forward to our first RW after I get my A. I am going to join POPS now that I can fly!
Footnote: I have now completed the student program and am working on my accuracy jumps prior to taking my "A" test.

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